Managers are often accused of being blinkered when it comes to their own side. Their performance was better in defeat, a challenge from their player did not merit a red card but one from the opposition did, and other teams have far more money to attract the best players and help them cope with injuries. The above responses have been heard from many Premier League managers this season and, most frequently, from Arsenal's Arsene Wenger. To him they are the reasons for what is likely to be a fifth year in a row without a trophy. To others they are more excuses for the failings of his team.
Wenger believes Arsenal are the only team in the leading pack not in decline. Next year will be "decisive", he claimed. But, on the eve of today's trip to Wigan, it appears Wenger should have taken the FA Cup and Carling Cup more seriously as a chance to end that barren run. Yet he does not agree. The title and Champions League are the prizes that matter most to him. Wenger told a pre-match press conference: "I felt this year I must win a trophy and I believe we are very close. I believe it is very difficult at the moment in England to stay at the top because you have so many teams who have quality and are threatening. "The first challenge is to stay at the top, then it is about winning the trophy, the league or the Champions League. The rest is cups and that is not the same. The real quality is to win the league or the Champions League."
Arsenal's midweek defeat to Spurs hurt badly and Wenger wants his players to respond as they have previously this season. "The future of our team lies in how well we can respond to big disappointments and that's a good opportunity on Sunday to show that," he added. There is no hiding place when things are not going well as Roberto Martinez, the Wigan boss, found out after the midweek draw with Portsmouth. But were Arsenal to leave the DW Stadium beaten, like Chelsea and Liverpool earlier in the season, Martinez would be right to suggest the future was bright for his side too.
"I've said from the first day I want to see Wigan in Europe, in the top 10 challenging in the Premier League, and to do that you need the players," he told reporters. "When you look at the youngsters we've got in the squad right now, it's quite clear they've the potential to play in the top four, and that really excites me." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Wigan v Arsenal, 7pm, Showsports 1 & 2